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What A Difference A Decade Makes: Electric Vehicles Mainstream at LA Auto Show

Simon Mui's picture
Simon Mui 174
National Resources Defense Council
  • Member since 2018
  • 9 items added with 3,269 views
  • Nov 17, 2011

Remember Back to the Future, when Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) jumps into the Lotus DeLorean and unintentionally travels back in time by 30 years, only to find a very different world?  Now at the 2011 LA Auto Show, I decided to jump in the BMW’s i8 – a plug-in electric hybrid also equipped with gull wing doors – to do my own time travel back only one decade to the 2001 LA Auto Show.

BMW i8.jpg

And wow, what a difference a decade makes. According to Dr. Mark Looper, of, the “alternative” options at the 2001 LA Auto show consisted of

  • 2 pure battery electrics (the GM EV1 and the Th!nk)
  • 3 conventional hybrids (Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, Ford Escape)
  • 2 natural gas vehicles (Honda Civic GX and a Dodge PowerBox). 



Flash forward now to today’s 2011 LA Auto Show, and what do we have:

  • 7 pure battery electrics
  • 5 plug-in hybrid electrics that can run on electricity and/or gasoline
  • 9 clean diesels
  • 31 conventional hybrids
  • 15 conventional gasoline and diesel–engine vehicles achieving over 40+ mpg

So what has been driving all these cleaner vehicles to be offered or planned? As I blogged on yesterday, the cars of the future are looking more mainstream because of California’s Clean Cars Program.

The auto industry’s rapid acceleration in the number of cleaner, fuel-sipping offerings and the pace of innovation are due to three reasons.  

1.  Joint carbon pollution and fuel efficiency standards being established by California’s Air Resources Board, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Transportation that will halve carbon emissions and nearly double fuel efficiency by 2025 of new vehicles compared today.

2. California’s Zero Emission Vehicle program that – if strengthened beyond what is currently being proposed – could bring 1.8 million electric-drive vehicles to the market and 5 million across the nation.

3. California’s next round of standards reducing smog-forming pollutants by 75% versus current standards.

 In less than a year, California sales of the first two electric-drive offerings out the gate (Nissan LEAF and the GM Chevy Volt) have exceeded the cumulative sales of battery electric vehicles from 1996 to 2010. That’s right, the number of electric vehicles on California’s highways has doubled in less than a year. What’s more, there are more than 30 additional electric-drive vehicles coming to market in the next several years as shown in the table below. And that’s already making 2011 looking oh so passé.      



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